Each New Year provides a New Season to reflect on God’s goodness and to look to the future with renewed expectation. I am stirred in my spirit about what God has in store for the Church in this season.
This past Fall, Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew New Year), ushered in the year 5777 on the Hebrew Calendar. Throughout the Bible, we see the significance of the number “7.” In Genesis, God rested from His work on the seventh day. He also instituted the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, the Shemitah (Sabbath year) every seventh year and proclaimed the Year of Jubilee every seven Shemitahs. There are Rabbis, both past and present, who have looked to the year 5777 as the year the Messiah will come. These elements highlight how the number “777” point to the prophetic nature of this season.
We also see this significance in the Year 2017. The number “17” is the seventh number in the list of prime numbers. Seventeen consists of the numbers 7 and 10. Seven is associated as the number of God, because it is the “number of perfection and completion.” Ten is the “number of divine order.” Therefore, according to Biblical numerics, “17” represents “the perfection of spiritual order.”
I did not include this to make your head spin with Biblical math, but to point out an important message to the Church…
I believe 2017 marks the beginning of a new season in which God desires to re-establish spiritual order in the midst of the chaos of our culture. This is where the Church plays a significant role in God’s plan. The re-establishment of spiritual order will come with the re-emergence of the Church’s voice in the culture. We are witnessing the increase of chaos, confusion and division in our society. Yet, there is a silver lining in it all. The history of revivals and awakenings reveal that when people lose faith in the government and in political institutions, they begin to seek answers from other sources. It is the “God-shaped vacuum” embedded in the heart of man that leads him back to God and the Church to find answers in times of crisis. History tells us that when this occurs, a society is ripe for Revival. The Church can seize this prophetic moment if it has the spiritual discernment to see beyond the surface and the courage to be a powerful voice.
There is an important historical distinction the Church must understand between Revivals and Great Awakenings. Revivals come to the Church to revive and renew believers. Great Awakenings occur in the culture among the irreligious who abandon secularism and turn to God. However, it is Revival in the Church that often provides the spark that lights the fire of Awakening in the culture. The power and influence of secularism is now being shaken. Therefore, the Church must be poised for Revival.
There are some vital points the Church must be mindful of in this Prophetic Season:
1) Pray for Revival
We must understand that Revival does not rest in the will of God, but in the will of man. It is the heart and nature of God to revive and restore His people. However, it is incumbent upon man to recognize his need to be revived and call upon God to do so. This is where prayer becomes an essential element to Revival. Prayer places man in a posture of humility and prepares his heart to be receptive to God’s move.
The New Testament Church was born in the Spirit of Revival on the Day of Pentecost. The 120 believers in the Upper Room were obedient to the Lord’s command to wait in Jerusalem. While they waited, they continued in prayer as they sought God for the promise of His Spirit (Acts 1:12-14). Some of these believers had not always been successful in prayer. Peter, James and John learned a difficult lesson in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked them to pray with Him for one hour as He prepared for His betrayal. These three men fell asleep three different times during the one hour prayer session. The good news is that they bounced back from this failure to become strong men of prayer.
This principle is still true today. Prayer has always been the engine that drives God’s people toward Revival. The Church must wake from its slumber and begin to pray again with a renewed fervor for Revival.
2) Choose Power over Popularity
Throughout the Bible, we see clear examples of men and women whom God used to break up the status quo of the spiritual climate. In every account, these individuals chose the Power of God over Popularity with the People. It was this power that made them effective voices for God in their generations. This is desperately needed today in this generation. We are living in an era in which the spirit of political correctness has permeated many institutions and levels of our society. When the Church adjusts its message to accommodate popular thought, it inadvertently chooses popularity over power.
God has historically accomplished His greatest work in the darkest times. The power of
His Spirit will always stand in direct opposition to the spirit of secular society. This is what motivated the Prophet Elijah in his day, and this behooves God’s people to choose His power today. How can the Church be a force for Revival if it chooses popularity over power? Popularity always leads to entrapment. When we build our lives and ministries on popularity, it forces us to appeal to people to remain popular. We can never experience Revival by appealing to people. Revival occurs when we appeal to Heaven.
There is an important fact about the power of God – it requires courage. The power of God sets us apart from the world. We cannot fear being different and effect change. It is this difference that gives us an influence that popularity can never manufacture. Popularity fades with the next fad, but the power of God endures.
3) Be a Voice to the Culture
A hallmark of the Great Awakenings was the powerful voices who led them. Throughout the Bible and Church History, God has used men and women who boldly articulated His message in prophetic seasons. Some of these voices are remembered as Reformers and some as Revivalists, but all were used by God to disrupt the status quo and call God’s people back to a place of spiritual renewal. The great reformers of the past did not look and sound like everyone else. They were distinct, loud voices whose messages reverberated with power and conviction. These voices have been described as “free-thinking agitators” by Church historians. They challenged the corruption, the complacency and the compromise of their day. I believe that God desires to raise up similar voices today who will once again call people to repentance and to adherence to His Word.
One of these voices was John the Baptist. The Prophet Isaiah declared centuries before that “a voice crying in the wilderness” would rise to “make the crooked paths straight for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3). John was the man God raised up to fulfill that function at the dawn of the New Testament. He was more than the next priest in a line of succession, he was a voice whose message shook the culture. It was the power of his voice and message that made the “crooked paths straight” for the move of God. John’s ministry demonstrated the power of a voice. Throughout history, it has never been Church trends and fads that ushered in moves of God, but the voices of conviction who make the crooked paths straight.
God has called the Church’s voice to be the conscience of the culture. In order for this to occur, the Church’s voice must re-emerge and resonate. America and the Church needs the bold proclamation of God’s Word with power and conviction once more. The French statesman and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville, traveled America in the 1830’s to discover what had made this young nation great. There were many observations he sited, and one of those was the religious fervor of Americans and the fire coming from the pulpits of American Churches. He noted – “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.” America will experience Revival again when the Fire of God returns to the pulpits and Churches of our nation. We can make the crooked paths straight for the next move of God, if we will commit to being bold voices who speak conviction and clarity to the issues of the day. Now is the time for the “Gospel Agitators” to rise up!
It is my prayer that God will continue to richly bless you and cause the Fire of Revival to burn bright in your life!